Friday, June 4, 2010

Map and Compass


 Backroads Product:  Map and Compass

Ducks always know where they are and can find their way around the planet fairly easily.  You, on the other hand, have to learn how to read a map to travel around the planet.

The first quarter of the professional Forestry program at UC Berkeley takes place during the summer after the sophmore and before the junior year.  It takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Meadow Valley.   The Forestry school calls it summer camp, but it really is about field forestry in ten short weeks.

When I picked up my books at camp most were fairly thick.  A California Flora by Munz was a good four inches thick.   But there nestled among all the thick books was a rather thin paperback titled "Be Expert with Map and Compass".  Next to the book was a compass.

Professional Foresters are taught to interpret maps, aerial photographs, satellites photos and even multi-spectural images.  Those classes came later, but they all built on that first little book on how to interpret topographic maps and use a compass to navigate.

That little paperback book is in its 15th printing.  It starts out on how to interpret topographic maps and continues into using a compass.  In these days of GPS units, why use a compass?

The same reason the Coast Guard and US Navy teach their officers to sail.  By knowing the basics you have a firm foundation for the new technology.  A map is always there.  On a GPS once the batteries drain your map disappears!!  Likewise, a compass will always work.

The book is inexpensive and current editions include information on the sport of Orienteering.  Now I never did get into Orienteering, but running property lines and doing the basic forestry work with map and compass was always fun and interesting.

That compass is still sold and available.  It was the compass I used in my 40 year career as a professional Forester.  I have them scattered around the house and still always carry one on hikes and hunting trips.  With a compass and map you can always find your location.

Over those 40 years I have been "lost" three times where I needed to pull out the compass and run a "line" back to the truck or trail.  After an hour of hiking through the woods with the compass it is a good feeling to hit the truck dead on!

One day I was thinking about alarm clocks and working in the back-country beyond the roads and trails.  Back in the early 70's there were not alarm clocks on your wrist.  Back in those primitive days I used the compass to set my alarm.  I noted the azimuth that the sun rose in the morning and then at night picked my camping spot by running a back azimuth to where the sun was going to rise in the morning.  Like clockwork in the morning, the sun would stream over the ridge and warm my sleeping bag waking me up.  A compass used as an alarm clock!

Get a copy of the book and a decent compass.   Use maps and compasses as you travel and soon you will be an expert in their use.  It will make you much more comfortable traveling in the back-country.  You will also be able to interpret maps and find those special places by simply looking at a map filled with squiggly lines.

1 comment:

Dugg said...

I remember that book from Boy Scouts! I recall a much plainer, almost solid blue cover. But it came with a protractor (?) and even some kind of fold-out topo map. Back then, topos were only 75 cents each, directly from the USGS.

Nowadays I still occasionally use topos (online) to find good sites and to check out the steepness of roads.